A pallid Vanessa Paradis gets in touch with her blocked emotions at an inherited “House in Brittany,” where ghosts act like therapists in Anne Le Ny’s fluff feature. A comedown following thesp-turned-helmer Le Ny’s prior directorial features (“Those Who Remain,” “My Father’s Guest”), this watchable but weightless romantic seriocomedy founders on flat fantasy elements and a stony star turn. Quick theatrical runs in French-language markets should precede better returns in ancillary.The death of a maiden aunt provokes little reaction from Parisian businesswoman Odile (Paradis), who hadn’t seen the woman for 20 years anyway — not since she was 12, when her father died of a severe asthma attack while visiting auntie’s quaint seaside home. Feeling guilty at not being able to save him, her aunt willed the place to Odile, who arrives simply to clean it out and put it up for sale. Reluctantly, however, she’s pulled into long-suppressed childhood memories, thanks in large part to matter-of-fact visitations by late relatives armed with plenty of advice regarding Odile’s unfulfilled life. Moreover, the flesh-and-blood locals would hate to see the place sold to strangers. Falling in ambiguously with either the quick or the dead is Samuel Le Bihan as a rascally onetime playmate who turns up at every opportunity, and who might be either the ghost of a drowned fisherman or the man’s living, homeless, disreputable brother. At the fade, Le Ny still hasn’t decided which he is, or whether Odile has an alternate romantic future with the married lover (Jonathan Zaccai) with whom she shares a scandalous secret. That unfortunately leaves the narrative burden on Paradis’ shoulders, and she conveys her heroine’s inner turmoil as blankly as the pic does the inert whimsy of its guest appearances by the friendly dead. The male leads provide whatever emotional heft the pic manages, while support players hit mildly comic notes. Whatever tricky tonal balance Le Ny is aiming for, the results fall far short. It’s symptomatic that among the pro but routine tech package, Jean-Marc Fabre’s mediocre lensing can’t even make the beautiful Brittany coast seem enchanting.
A Move Movie, France 2 Cinema, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels and UGC production. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Paris.) Produced by Bruno Levy. Directed by Anne Le Ny. Screenplay, Le Ny, Luc Beraud.
Camera (color, widescreen), Jean-Marc Fabre; editor, Guerric Catala; music, Francois-Eudes Chanfrault; production designer, Yves Brover; costume designer, Nathalie du Roscoat; sound (Dolby Surround), Frederic de Ravignan, Beatrice Wick, Cedric Lionnet; assistant director, Eliot Mathews; casting, Tatiana Vialle. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (World Greats), Aug. 31, 2012. Running time: 96 MIN.
Vanessa Paradis, Samuel Le Bihan, Jonathan Zaccai, Laurent Stocker, Martin Jobert, Catherine Vinatier, Aurore Clement, Thibault Vincon, Thomas Blanchard, Damien Dorsaz, Jaia Caltagirone, Catherine Morlot, Edith Le Merdy, Marc-Antoine Diquero.